"...it seems like just now people are starting to take things seriously"
This story has been donated to the Atlanta History Center’s Corona Collective.
Despite being 24 years old, I am at high-risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
At the beginning of 2019, I was diagnosed with liver disease. I’ve always been very open about this with friends, family, and even on social media. I want to be able to talk openly about health in hopes it helps someone else, or they can relate to what I have to say. Because of my liver disease, I am technically immunocompromised; my immune system is way below full strength.
But when COVID-19 first crept into our collective consciousnesses, it felt like no one around me seemed to have opened their eyes or ears. “It’s just the flu,” they would tell me. These were people who had received higher education, some of whom even work in local hospitals. They were still going out to shop with their friends, going on vacations, sometimes even going out to dinner. I, however, locked myself in my home and immediately took precautions to stay quarantined.
This caused a little bit of tension in my life, as I saw friends and family members not taking the pandemic as seriously as I was. I was even made fun of in the beginning, as they didn’t believe it was a big deal. I have family members who are also at-risk. Some of them have been staying quarantined, while others have yet to take any precautions. Soon, my grandparents actually got tested for COVID-19 after exposure to others who had it. I remember feeling so terrified that they would catch it, as they may not have survived. However, their results came back negative and it was such a relief to all of us, even those who hadn’t been taking it quite so seriously.
COVID-19 is affecting more than just older people like many of us originally thought. Not only that, but it can be carried from person to person when they don’t even know they have it. We’ve now seen people of all ages pass away from this pandemic, and it seems like just now people are starting to take things seriously.
I live about 30 minutes outside of Atlanta, GA in Cherokee County. Growing up in suburban Georgia, I’ve learned that politically we do lean conservatively and thus sometimes we can be more reluctant to take things seriously. It wasn’t until early April that our governor Brian Kemp finally put the state on a Stay-at-Home order, saying he wasn’t aware of the fact that the virus could spread through people who do not show any symptoms. I am delighted that the state is finally catching up, however, I’ve known how the virus spreads since early January of this year. People of all ages are passing away from this pandemic, shouldn’t we be taking it seriously?
“It’s just the flu,”they would tell me. These were people who had received higher education, some of whom even work in local hospitals. They were still going out to shop with their friends, going on vacations, sometimes even going out to dinner.
Why, does it seem like younger generations are being more proactive? I think it’s because, even if we survive, we don’t want to be carriers of the virus. We don’t want our parents and grandparents to get sick. Most of us haven’t been through something quite so globally impactful at all or in a very long time. When 9/11 happened, I was only 5 years old and remember it through a very young lens. So now I’m logging onto social media and seeing constant news updates of young people, infants, middle-aged people, and elderly who are passing from this virus. How can you not at least be concerned?
To their credit, most of the people in my life are now starting to take it more seriously. With the “lockdown” happening in Georgia now, people are seeing that it really is impacting us. Georgia is the fourth highest state in the country with people who have the virus, with the United States now being the number one nation in the world with the most cases. These statistics are serious, as there have been more deaths now from this pandemic than 9/11. When people say “it’s just the flu” or “it’ll pass” what does that really mean? Does it come from a place of privilege to be able to say those things? While I believe the people in my life who work in the medical field, I also think that it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
Georgia Governor Brian Kemp has declared a partial reopening of non-essential businesses starting on April 27. The Stay-at-Home order has expired as April came to a merciful end. I know that the same people who were not taking isolation that seriously will be going back out to these businesses, as I’ve seen them continue business-as-usual while Georgia has had a stay-at-home order. Despite starting to understand the seriousness of the pandemic, I don’t think they will continue taking precautions as businesses reopen. The governor told them it is okay, so that is what they’ll believe. I think this partial re-opening is extremely dangerous as Georgia is one of the top 5 states with Coronavirus death rates.
I know many people have been anxious for the state to open back up. However, after Kemp’s decision, I’ve also seen lots of people I know express fear for the state. A friend of mine is a manager at a gym, and she doesn’t want to come into contact with people’s sweat or other germs and further expose herself. However, under Kemp’s ruling, her business will now be open. I will be continuing to take precautions by staying isolated in quarantine, despite Kemp’s recent decision.